On Tuesday, President Goodluck Jonathan put petroleum resources minister Diezani Alison-Madueke’s name forward to become the next Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC.). The present scribe of the Vienna-based oil cartel, Libya’s Abdalla Salem al-Badri, who has held the job for many years, is not likely to secure another term after the current one expires in December. This is due to strong opposition from Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The Nigerian government’s decision to present Alison-Madueke, already the organisation’s alternate president since December last year, was to achieve two purposes: prevent an open power struggle at the OPEC Secretariat which would, in all probability, send oil price nose-diving, and to give the embittered Nigerian oil minister, facing a fraud investigation by lawmakers at home, a kind of soft-landing. However, neither objective was achieved as delegates to the 165th OPEC ministerial meeting opted for their own way of dealing with imminent vacancy at the Secretariat. What they decided was to grant al-Badri a six-month tenure extension that would keep him in office till June next year.
There was no official explanation why that decision was taken, which was an undisguised snub to the Nigerian leadership. Alison-Madueke would have been the second Nigerian Secretary General of OPEC, after Rilwanu Lukman who held the post for five years, 1995-2000. However, it was clear that delegates were embarrassed by a petition against her and loud protests against her nomination when the meeting got under way on Wednesday. Both were spearheaded by one Blessing Agbomhere, a Nigerian director of Gatekeepers Nigeria. His petition was about the reported missing $20 billion oil money at the NNPC which was investigated by the Nigerian Senate last month. The House of Representatives is investigating another allegation that Alison-Madueke squandered N10bn on acquiring a jet for her private comfort.
Explaining his petition to a Nigerian newspaper correspondent at the venue of the OPEC meeting, Agbomhere, said, “I wrote a petition which I distributed to delegates at the conference; how could they nominate like her as the Secretary General? She should, at least, tell where the missing money went”. He said he was attacked by the minister’s aides and the Austrian police asked him to leave the venue of the meeting eventually. However, he did achieve his him of stalling Alison-Madueke’s appointment, even if it will be for a year only. President Jonathan, we are told, is bent on representing her name in June 2015.
President Jonathan is notorious for his obduracy in protecting his own, even when confronted with barefaced corruption cases against them. Fighting corruption will not be part of his suit, this much he has made clear. Well, he may choose to ignore his honest country men and women, but the outside world is certain to take notice, as his snub by OPEC delegates has shown.